Of the 222 named burials there are two Officers of the 1st Battalion, killed in 1914.  Both of the men buried here died of wounds, one whilst a prisoner of war, although both died whilst in enemy hands after the 1st Battalion's action at Voilaines on 22nd October 1914.



1st Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment
Officers, N.C.O.s and Men of the 1st Battalion, Buried in Douai Communal Cemetery

©: G E Conway, 2009
Their name liveth for evermore
Private E J Conway (circa. 1905)
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"Grandad's War"
Both of the men named below were awarded the 1914 Star (with "clasps and roses"), the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
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Captain Lionel Archibald FORSTER

Date of Death:
4 October 1914
(Died whilst Prisoner of War)
Grave No:
B.2.
Unit:
3rd Battalion
(Attd: 1st Battalion)
Age:
35


Personal History:

Lionel was born at Bamford Speke, Devon on 16th March 1879, the youngest son of the late Right Hon. William Forster, M.P., of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The 1891 Census shows him as a 13 year pupil at Sandhurst, born in London (1891 Census, RG 12/1008) 

He married Ione in 1905/6 and the 1911 Census (RG 14/21845) shows him as a serving Officer, living at The Old Hall, Guilden Sutton, Chester, with his wife and one daughter, Daireen, aged 1. Ione later re-married becoming Ione Toms and went to live at 1 Holmesgrove Rd., Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol.
Military History:

Currently his Army records are unavailable, and do not appear to have survived the Second World War bombing. His 'Roll of Honour' entry shows that he was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant, Cheshire Regiment, on 3rd August 1898 and promoted to Lieutenant on 23rd October 1899 and Captain on 15th October 1905. He served in the South African (Boer) War 1900-02 and was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal (3 clasps) and the King's South Africa Medal (2 clasps).

Lionel was not part of the original contingent of the 1st Battalion that left for France in August 1914, having retired from the Active List and joined the Reserve of Officers. His Medal Index Card and the War Diary show that he joined the Battalion on the 24th September at Le Mesnil from the Reserve of Officers.

Captain Forster was listed as a 'wounded' in the War Diary on 22nd October following the action at Voilaines so it seems he subsequently became a prisoner of war and died of wounds two weeks later at the Lycée Hospital, Douai. (Crookenden, p.29, states he was wounded and "died … in German hands".)

After the action at Voilaines, 22nd October 1914, the War Diary reports:
"5.10 a.m. Enemy made heavy attack, and took the trenches at the point of the bayonet. Battalion retired to RUE DU MARAIS under very heavy fire. Manchesters came up in support.
8.0 p.m. Battalion withdrawn and went in bivouac at last E of RUE DE BETHUNE.
Casualties: Captains Shore, Rich, Hartford, 2/Lieuts Atkinson, Leicester, Greenhalgh missing, Captain Forster, 18 N.C.O.s & men wounded, 200 N.C.O.s & men missing including Sergeant Major."

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Captain William Suttor RICH

Date of Death:
9 November 1914 (Died of wounds)
Grave No:
D.1.
Unit:
'D' Company
Age:
35
Awards:
Twice mentioned in despatches
Personal History:
Virtually nothing is known of this Officer other than he was the son of William Morton Rich, of Mount Victoria, New South Wales, Australia. However, after his death it is apparent their were no obvious heirs, as in wife or children, as the following notice appeared in the London Gazette (Issue 28912 published 22 September 1914. Page 3):

Captain WILLIAM SUTTOR RICH, Deceased.
Pursuant to the Statute 22 and 23 Victoria, c. 35.
ALL persons having any claims against the estate of William Suttor Rich, a Captain in the Cheshire  Regiment, late of 115, Jermyn-street, London, W., and of the King's West Africa Regiment, Sierra Leone, West Africa (who died on the 9th November, 1914, at Douai, France), are hereby required to send particulars, in writing, of such claims to the undersigned, on or before the 25th day ,of June, 1915, after which date the executor of the estate of the said deceased will proceed to distribute such estate, having regard only to the claims of which he shall then have said notice -Dated this 14th day of May, 1915.
BULL and BULL, 3, Stone-buildings, Lincoln's Inn, London, Solicitors for the Executor, Sir William Bull, M.P. 
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Use the links on the left to read a little more about eachof these brave Officers and see where he is buried.
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Military History:
Currently his Army records are unavailable, and do not appear to have survived the Second World War bombing. From the above notice he seems to have originally been in the King's West Africa Regiment.

In 1911 Lt. Col. P.L. Murray's "Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa", pp. 61 - 69, lists William as Private 392 in the 1st NSW Mounted Rifles serving during the Boer War in South Africa. His career after that is not known except that London Gazette Issue 28912 published on the 22 September 1914. Page 3 states: "The Cheshire Regiment, Supernumerary Captain William S. Rich is restored to the establishment. Dated 14th September, 1914", so presumably he was at that time not a serving Officer.

At the outbreak of War he sailed for France as second in command of 'D' Company, 1st Battalion, under Captain Jones. Having survived Audregnies it is likely that William assumed command of 'D' Company and moved with them to their action at La Bassée. The enemy launched a huge offensive on the 20th October. It reached from Arras to the sea and it included a heavy assault upon the 1st Battalion at Voilaines.

Captain Rich was listed as a 'casualty' in the War Diary on 22nd October following the action at Voilaines so it is clear that he was taken prisoner on that day and subsequently died of wounds just over two weeks later.

He was twice mentioned in despatches, including Field Marshall French's despatch of 14th January, 1915, where he appears as "Rich, Captain W. S. (died of wounds received in action)". Previously, he had been Gazetted on 19th October 1914 and again on the 9th December - confirming the earlier entry.

Action at Audregnies, 24 August 1914:

The War Diary for 24th August reads (in part):

"2.30 p.m.   I am informed Col Ballard gave orders for all troops to retire in an Easterly direction - these orders never reached the 2 front platoons of 'D' Coy under command of Capt W S Rich, who held on to the position he had reached in front of the line till 4 p.m. by which hour all troops had retired."

'Shortly before C Company started to move, Rich, with his two platoons near the colliery, had been forced to retire. Pressed in front and outflanked, he withdrew his men yard by yard, disputing every inch of ground. This grim struggle left an indelible mark on the minds of those of C Company who witnessed it.' (Ever Glorious - Bernard Rigby)

This second phase of the battle developed into a series of isolated actions by small groups. When the group under Dugmore finally had to scatter and retreat, only one man escaped capture.

When Dugmore linked up with Groves he found that officer and Rich, both with their men awaiting him. These two officers, who had shown extraordinary courage and leadership, then took their men off south-east and joined up with the brigade. 'Their escape' says Crookenden 'was remarkable. They must have squeezed through between the van-guards of the German 66th and 93rd regiments converging on Wiheries from the north and west.'

Action at Voilaines, 22 October 1914:

The War Diary reports:

"5.10 a.m. Enemy made heavy attack, and took the trenches at the point of the bayonet. Battalion retired to RUE DU MARAIS under very heavy fire. Manchesters came up in support.
8.0 p.m. Battalion withdrawn and went in bivouac at last E of RUE DE BETHUNE.
Casualties: Captains Shore, Rich, Hartford, 2/Lieuts Atkinson, Leicester, Greenhalgh missing, Captain Forster, 18 N.C.O.s & men wounded, 200 N.C.O.s & men missing including Sergeant Major."

"Captain Rich had displayed great gallantry in every action from Audregnies onwards." (Crookenden, p.29)

Capt Rich's gravestone
Douai Communal Cemetery
This cemetery contains 222 Great War burials, 197 from the UK, 14 Canadians, 7 from Australia, 3 New Zealanders and 1 South African. There are a 27 Second World War burials here too.

Douai was occupied by French troops and the Royal Naval Air Service on the 22nd September, 1914, and captured by the Germans on the 1st October; it remained in enemy hands until the 17th October, 1918. Douai Communal Cemetery was used by the Germans for prisoners of war and British, French, Russian, Rumanian and Italian soldiers, as well as German soldiers were buried in it.



Capt. Forster's gravestone
Capt. Forster Medal Index Card
Capt. Forster Medal Index Card (back)
Capt Forster's Boer War Medals